Store-owner, Arizona Bain prepares for the opening of ‘Body Bed & Bath’.
Submitted by Deidre Rahming
FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- In just a few short months, the number of businesses operating in the International Bazaar has risen to almost 50. For many of the new owners, rental concessions and the first year license fee waiver by The Grand Bahama Port Authority, Limited (GBPA) have been the impetus to start their new business.
According to Gaynel Kesson of ‘Elle Couture’, GBPA’s one-year business license exemption was a major stimulant. “The waiver, along with the generosity of the International Bazaar Association in reducing the rent, is what attracted me,” she explained.
Sharon Wallace, owner of ‘Perfect Match’, agreed. “I was looking into starting a new business and heard of the offer by the ‘Port Authority’ and the incentives offered by the Bazaar. So, I decided to try it out and see,” said Wallace.
Both owners wholeheartedly agree that they made wise decisions. “We’ve been open 2 weeks and despite having not done any advertising, the response has been remarkable with tourists even stopping in the store,” Wallace added.
Kesson noted that she sold out much of her stock of unique island flair items within the first month of operation and attributed much of her success to locals, who patronize other businesses within the revitalized complex, stopping in and browsing.
“I honestly feel that the International Bazaar is a good location,” stated Wallace. “As business persons we have to try and bring back areas that we knew were successful and I truly believe in the Bazaar.”
GBPA President, Ian Rolle is encouraged by such a response. "The intention behind the initiative was to stimulate activity in the once thriving International Bazaar. One way to achieve this was to lessen the cost of starting up a business in the Bazaar. Now, with the license fee waiver in place, more residents are able to become entrepreneurs and offer employment to others," explained Rolle.
President of the International Bazaar Owners’ Association, Chris Paine, is optimistic about the Bazaar’s revitalization, predicting a store count of 50 by the end of September and 60 by the end of the year. “Realistically, it’s a difficult time for new businesses because of challenges going on globally but we’ve come a long way in these couple of years,” he said.
According to Paine, local residents are definitely supporting all of the stores and plans are underway to meet with members of the Ministry of Tourism and the transportation industry to update them on recent developments so as to re-attract even more tourists to the once popular commercial center.
“As landlords and owners, we’re making a concerted effort to revitalize the Bazaar as a collective body. There has been good response due to incentives offered by GBPA with the license fee waiver. Additional spaces are still available for rent, so I would encourage anyone that is interested in opening a business to come in and talk with us,” implored Paine.
A ‘Perfect Match’ shoe store is just one of many newly opened establishments, bringing the store count in the International Bazaar to almost 50.
The large variety of stores now opened in the International Bazaar offer a range of products, from small eateries, restaurants, shoes, clothing and designer wear, to unique gift items, souvenirs, and even kid’s supplies.
Now that business is on the rise, Paine promises that the public can look forward to the return of the Bazaar’s usual holiday marketing campaign and raffle in the months ahead, as well as the possibility of live entertainment returning to the renewed venue.